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Bootstrapping

 

Today, I did some work on the model for ArtByBrett.com (domain purchased, but no web site yet...) and in the course of my work on it, I checked out the process for obtaining bar codes. Why? Because if I am to sell greeting cards through retail stores, then having a real UPC on the back of the cards will help the retailer and enhance my legitimiacy. So...

I visited this page and went through the process far enough to see what the price might be. For 100 bar codes (100 products - have to think ahead...) the price was $750, with a $150 annual renewal fee. That's not bad at all, really. That means that my cards would have a unique code in the retail environment all their own. So for the printer fees and the bar code purchase, I'm well over $1,000 to get started at this. There's the risk for me, financially. If nothing sells, that's what I lose. That's okay - it's worth the dream.

Between now and mid-February, when I plan to start selling my cards, I have to paint 8 sellable card designs, and then write a customized shopping cart that integrates with PayPal. I've decided to go with PayPal because the fees are reasonable and I can create the order number and order details in my own database, and then hand off the order number and total sale amount to PayPal for payment processing. Or, I can allow the buyer to print the invoice and send me a check referencing the order number, if they don't like PayPal.

I've been down this road before when I sold my own software. The only difference is that now I'll have inventory - lots of cards on-hand. Software is virtual, unless people wanted the software on CD.

I've worked through the business model, thinking of every possible expense that I can and building a spreadsheet to represent cash flow and margins.

I came up with the text for the "About" page. Here it is:

When I first began to paint, I painted cards for people on special occasions. It surprised me to see how touched they were to receive them, and how long some kept the cards displayed - even to go so far as to frame them!

I realized then that if a card has the quality of an art print at the cost of a greeting card, the remembrance that went into sharing such an affordable card lasts a very long time. And so, Art By Brett was born.

It's my hope that what you find here helps to bring smiles and feelings of warmth to the people who receive the cards you give them.

And then the goal is to come up with 3 to 4 new cards a month and add to the product mix. By next Christmas, I should have several Christmas cards from which to choose.

So I'll have two store fronts: retail stores and my web site. Bulk and package pricing will be available from the web site, where in the store, it will be only individual cards.

I groove on this sort of thing. In the next week or so, I'll receive my latest book purchase from Amazon: Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. From the marketing blurb on the Amazon for the book:

Execution is "the missing link between aspirations and results," and as such, making it happen is the business leader's most important job. While failure in today's business environment is often attributed to other causes, Bossidy and Charan argue that the biggest obstacle to success is the absence of execution.
It's not smarts or talent or even luck... it's just getting it to market and putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up along the way. It's putting your money where yours dreams are. A lot of people fantasize about winning the lottery, but the odds are so unbelievably stacked against them that it's truly money lost in sum of the chances taken. But pursuing a business has much, much better odds. Plus you learn a great deal along the way.

I often try to get people to pursue their dreams. But I'm constantly shocked at the number of people who can't budge from that steady paycheck, despite the greatness of their idea and their own potential. I've learned to stop encouraging after a certain point. If they doubt it themselves, it's better that they don't risk it.

For me, I've started quite a few businesses. None have brought me wads of cash. Thankfully, the majority of those paid the bills. Through the years, it's been a wash though. So why do I keep trying? For me, it's the freedom of getting to choose how I want to spend each day if I do get ahead of the game and find the model that truly works.

So, scheming here at my drafting table is fine, but it's all about execution and then not taking "no" for an answer. Persistence. Drive. Heart. And utter belief that I can do this.

I never finished college and have never had a computer class or an education in art, nor have I had any business training. But I am surrounded by a great library of business books that I've purchased and read. And the knowledge of what failed and what worked in my previous endeavors. I think that anyone can jump in and make their own business. Americans began as a largely self-employed lot. In Lincoln's day, it was looked down upon to work for someone else. Self-reliance was the mode. Industrialization brought an end to that. The move toward factories had people moving from farm to city and 100 years later, you needed big bucks to start your own company. But that's not true today. Computers and the web offer cheap store fronts for about $12 a month. People spend more than that for cell phones and cable TV. Or lottery tickets.

I love success stories, like this one.

They arrived in this country with little money, relying on the American dream that hard work and determination would lead to success.

Bilich and her husband, Bos, brought their two small children to Rockford from war-torn Bosnia in 1994. They have since opened a masonry business, Bos & Son, which saw $800,000 in sales this year.
A lot of people have talent in something - they just need to make the leap, but they're afraid of risk.

I read an article online a few years ago that talked of that problem in Scotland.

[Nicol Stephen, a government leader] was launching a report calling for radical changes to the way in which enterprise is taught in schools. He urged the business community to see risk and failure as part of the normal path to success and said it should stop "sitting back" and criticising teachers for the state of enterprise education.

Highlighting attitudes in the US, he said that American entrepreneurs may fail not just once or twice but several times before they make their first million. "We must be prepared to try and try again."
Similarly there were a couple of other articles that I saw at that time... the links are now dead, but a Harvard business guy said this:
There are many countries -- Japan, Norway, Russia, even England -- where if somebody succeeds, people are sort of mad at them. They used to say there's no sense in being an entrepreneur in France because if you fail people think you're stupid, if you succeed people think you're a crook, so you can't win either way.
And this from an article about entrepreneurship in Africa (again, the link for it is dead.)
Once upon a not too long past, the word "entrepreneur" in Nigeria was a dirty word, and to a large - too large - extent, it still is. Nigerian kids went to school and learnt to become good employees. The investment and industry was left to foreign investors, and, for some time, it worked. The shame is that now, it"s not working, but little else has changed.
My concern is that that sounds more like America every day... we lampoon "the rich" and wonder how they're rigging the system to make it, as though that were the secret... or we wonder how they inherited their money to keep making money as they do. But that's not it at all.

We need people to take risks and not be tied to the paycheck and the security of that. And entrepreneurs need to be rewarded for their risk. The classic entrepreneur tries a new business more than once before succeeding. This is so important because most people learn by doing and most people who've never run a business don't know how. But if it's okay to fail, then you learn and try again and you get smarter and eventually succeed, whether you started with money or not.

(Soapbox: if they figure it out and get rich, it's important that we not tax the bejeezus out of them - because they'll most likely try again and create more jobs in the process. I've never met a successful entrepreneur who got wealthy off a well-executed idea and then stopped there. But I have met those who stopped because of the regulatory climate.)

So, with the new year coming, I hope that among those talented folk I know - which includes everyone who reads this blog regularly - I hope they work to make real their own dreams and try to execute and become successful with them. I know one who has begun to make the leap and I know that she'll succeed. I hope others follow suit.

I triple dog dare you ;)

 


by Brett Rogers, 12/17/2005 11:19:32 PM
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Comments

You're inspiring me, Brett.

 

 

Posted by Anonymous, 12/19/2005 9:27:45 AM



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